Truck Driver Job Description
Truck drivers drive tractor trailers with a minimum of 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW). Their main responsibility is to pick up and transport goods from one location to another. Sometimes the routes they run are local, while at other times they can span the entire country.
When a trucker picks up their load, they are told what day and time they need to make their delivery. Today, most truck drivers use GPS systems to help them plan their routes so that they can make their delivery on time.
In many cases, truck drivers have to operate on very tight schedules. Getting a delivery where it’s supposed to be at the time it’s supposed to be there can be challenging, and often requires familiarity with the routes that need to be taken. For example, bypassing a major city may require driving a hundred extra miles, but can save hours of time spent in traffic.
Some truck drivers transport hazardous materials, and have to take many precautions while driving. A special license is required to transport hazardous materials (you can learn more about the requirements in the ‘how to become a truck driver’ section below).
Some truck drivers (known as owner operators) buy or lease their own trucks and go into business for themselves. Working as an owner operator requires a lot of additional work, but it can be very rewarding. Because they earn all of the money from their shipments, they are normally paid very well.
Work Environment and Schedule
Working as a long-haul truck driver is very demanding. Truckers are often away from home for days or weeks at a time, which can take a toll on their personal life.
Trucking can be very physically demanding. You might think that sitting in a seat all day is easy, but it isn’t. Truckers drive up to 11 straight hours, and may have to load or unload cargo when they get to their stop. The work can be physically exhausting.
Driving a truck can be mentally tiring as well. Driving in bad weather conditions requires a lot of focus and patience, and truckers have to remain alert for very long stretches of time. Delays from road construction, accidents, or bad weather can result in late shipments, and truckers are always under pressure to get where they’re going on time.
The hours that truck drivers can work are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Truckers can work up to 14 straight hours, but no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving. The remaining hours are spent performing administrative tasks, or unloading cargo.
After 14 hours of work, truckers have to take a minimum of a 10 hour break. This gives them a chance to get some rest, and prepare for their next shift.
Truck drivers are limited to driving no more than 60 hours every 7 days, or 70 hours every 8 days. After completing a run, they have to take at least 34 hours off before they can start another one.
Freight moves around the country at all times, and truckers have to work nights, weekends, and holidays to make their deliveries on time.
How to Become a Truck Driver
Most truck drivers have a high school diploma, but not all companies require one for employment. In most cases, having relevant work experience and the proper licenses are more important than any formal education requirements.
Most trucking companies prefer to hire truck drivers who have at least two years of relevant experience. Working as a delivery driver or bus driver before pursuing a career as a trucker can be very beneficial.
All long-haul truck drivers need to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To earn a CDL, you will have to pass both a driving and a knowledge test. Some trucking companies are willing to pay for your CDL training and exam, while others expect you to have met those requirements before applying.
If you want to transport hazardous materials, you will need to get an endorsement to do so. Getting an endorsement requires additional training, as well as a background check.
Truck drivers are subjected to random drug and alcohol tests while on duty. Failing a test can result in the loss of your license. Additionally, being convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol while not on the job can cause your license to be suspended or revoked.
Some truckers learn their trade by attending a professional driving school. In driving school, trainees are taught how to drive large vehicles, and also receive education on the laws and regulations that impact truck driving.
If you want to be assured that the program you enroll in will provide a quality education, you can check to see if it’s certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute. Schools with this certification meet U.S. Department of Transportation and industry standards.
There are currently 1,604,800 truck drivers in the United States, with 64,940 new truck driver job openings created each year.
Truck Driver jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Truck Driver Salaries
Truck Driver salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most truck drivers make between $30,500 – $47,100 per year, or $14.67 – $22.66 per hour.